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SPLC: Victory in Florida Court Moves Us Closer to Goal of Freeing Them All

MIAMI – Late Thursday night, U.S. District Judge Marcia G. Cooke issued an order requiring Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to begin the process of releasing hundreds of people from three South Florida detention centers. The order in the lawsuit, which was first filed on April 13, orders ICE to submit a report to the court explaining how it intends to accelerate its review of its Alternatives to Detention Program, with the goal of reducing the population to 75 percent of capacity at each of the three detention centers within two weeks. 

Judge Cooke also ordered ICE to perform custody redeterminations for the 34 named individuals in the suit within one week and provide masks for every individual in the three facilities within two days. Judge Cooke found that there is sufficient evidence to determine that the conditions at the detention centers constitute a violation of detained individuals’ Fifth and Eighth Amendment rights. 

The following statement is from Paul R. Chavez, senior supervising attorney with SPLC’s Immigrant Justice Project:

“This victory is a promising step in the right direction to end the cruel and unusual punishment of nearly 1,400 individuals detained in South Florida. We are pleased to see the Court move to hold ICE accountable for its barbaric and inhumane treatment of our immigrant friends, family members and neighbors. The pandemic has only exacerbated the life and death stakes of ICE detention.

“We look forward to holding ICE accountable to this order and will be filing for class action certification soon. The urgency of the situation cannot be understated. By ignoring the advice of doctors and public health experts, the agency is knowingly putting detained peoples’ lives in grave danger. It’s impossible to practice social distancing and other CDC guidelines in detention centers, even if they are not at capacity. 

“The cruel irony is ICE never had reason to detain those under its custody in the first place. There is no justification to force immigrants to navigate their civil immigration matters from behind bars. Now, their wholly unnecessary detention has led to catastrophic outbreaks that will soon burden an already strained health care system. 

“We must release detained people back into the safety of their communities where they can protect themselves and their loved ones from the virus. Unless we correct course and free them now, Florida and ICE will bear responsibility for unfathomable harm and loss of life.”

The order can be read in full here and other filings in the case can be found here.